Books about Writing

At the AYE conference last week, I attended Johanna Rothman’s and Naomi Karten’s excellent writing workshop. During the workshop, I mentioned some of my favorite books about writing. Several people asked me to post a list of books that I’ve found helpful. Here’s the list.

First, here are the books that have helped me the most.

Being a Writer by Peter Elbow and Pat Belanoff.
"The two main skills in writing are making a mess and cleaning up the mess." [Full Review]
Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace by Joseph M. Williams.
How our choices of words, and our choices for arranging words, affect readers. How to revise your writing to better fit those expectations and make your writing clearer and more coherent. [Full Review]
Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg.
"Everything I say as a teacher is ultimately aimed at people trusting their own voice and writing from it." [Full Review]
Writing from the Inside Out by Dennis Palumbo.
"All good writing starts from where you are now." [Full Review]
Writing the Natural Way by Gabriele Rico.
Centers on clustering, a technique for quickly making explicit the ideas and associations we have about a topic. [Full Review]
Writing with Power by Peter Elbow.
Three important themes for writing: freewriting, energy, and experience. [Full Review]

I’ve also found the following books very helpful.

The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron with Mark Bryan.
Giving yourself permission and confidence to be fully creative.
Accidental Genius by Mark Levy.
Writing as a way to solve problems.
Adios, Strunk and White by Gary and Glynis Hoffman.
Fun book with lots of tips from improving your writing style.
The Courage to Write by Ralph Keyes.
"If you're not scared, you're not writing."
The Craft of Research by Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams.
How to make a claim and support it.
The Deluxe Transitive Vampire by Karen Elizabeth Gordon.
A morbidly hilarious book about grammar.
Edit Yourself by Bruce Ross-Larson.
A zillion examples of troublesome words, phrases, and patterns, with suggestions for improving each.
Effective Writing by Bruce Ross-Larson.
How to improve sentences, paragraphs, and whole pieces. Three books in one.
The Elements of Nonsexist Usage by Val Dumond.
Tips for gender-inclusive and gender-neutral writing.
The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White.
A classic. Concise and useful.
The New Well-Tempered Sentence by Karen Elizabeth Gordon.
A zany and delightful book about punctuation.
One Continuous Mistake by Gail Sher.
"If writing is your practice, the only way to fail is not to write."
On Writing Well by William Zinsser.
"The secret of good writing is to strip every sentence to its cleanest components."
Rhetorical Grammar by Martha Kolln.
"The purpose here is ... to help you understand the structure of sentences so that when you write you will understand the choices that are available to you — and the effect of those choices on your reader."
Wild Mind by Natalie Goldberg.
Expands on the ideas in Writing Down the Bones. Wild Mind includes more exercises than her earlier book.
The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler.
Creating characters and stories based on enduring mythic themes.
You Don't Have to Write a Book! by Hal and Sidra Stone.
A painfully funny book about a thousand and one ways to make sure you never write a book. I can add a thousand-and-second way from my own experience: before writing your book, read all of these books about writing.
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